This was one of the opening questions during the M2M panel organized at ITS ’13. Although “widespread” is quite vague, it was clear from the discussions which followed that services will represent the main revenue streams in the future. Technology, whether we like it or not, could become just a method of entry.This is somewhat bad news for MNOs, who typically are not service providers and had struggled in the past to become this type of actor. The challenges become even greater in Europe, a market that has to sustain ~60 operators. Compared to this, the US has only 4. However, MNOs cam become an enabler for M2M, beyond connectivity, by moving to maintenance and management and taking care of aspects such as security and authentication, which are out of the reach of smaller players. Also, M2M business will not be centered on SIMs, since they are too expensive to put in every device. In order to succeed, operators need to change their strategies and become more than a SIM card provider.
Still, how will the multitude of M2M services be delivered in a scalable and efficient way? Service platforms are advocated as the solution for decoupling applications from devices and providing a middle-layer for horizontal integration. They are also the main point where information from various applications can be analyzed and exchanged. However, while this seems great in theory, practically there are some issues. How open should the platforms be? There is no business incentive to collaborate around fully open platforms. Foremost is the fact that companies do not want to “lose control”, especially of the data generated by their M2M application. Furthermore, even if some will move out of their comfort zone and adhere to open platforms, there is yet no proper regulation framework to support this.
Now, technology is not issue that prevents the mass adoption of M2M. However, considering the vision of billions of devices, clearly improvements have to be made. Scalability and management of the heterogeneity of devices are seen as two of the challenges. Of course, there are many more aspects and a lot of interesting research can be done in the area.
To conclude also with a question: do you use any M2M service today?